ARGOS innovation partnership: Thales-Engie-Vossloh group becomes SNCF Réseau's principal partner for future computer-controlled interlockings

The ARGOS innovation partnership launched by SNCF Réseau in 2018 to develop and deploy a new generation of computer-controlled signal interlockings is ready to move to the next level. For 18 months, as part of a multi-awardee partnership, teams of experts from SNCF Réseau and four industry consortia have been exploring technical solutions to find the best way to improve SNCF Réseau’s traffic management performance and reduce its operating costs.
Computer-controlled interlockings play a crucial role in the safety of rail transport by controlling points and signals in a given area. Many interlocking boxes in service today are old or rely on obsolete technology and are therefore due for replacement. The ARGOS computer-controlled interlockings now under development will upgrade these electro-mechanical, electrical or purely mechanical systems to digital technology.

 The ARGOS project targets high levels of technical and economic performance. Real-time data transmission will shorten incident response times and reduce the impact of failures and maintenance operations to improve traffic flows and enhance the passenger experience. The new systems will overcome the need for intermediate relays, which will reduce the footprint of ground-based infrastructure and cabling and drive down installation and maintenance costs.

 After 18 months of exploratory work, a new chapter in the ARGOS partnership is about to begin. SNCF Réseau, one of the most experienced and demanding customers in the global rail market, has renewed its confidence in Thales technologies and the expertise of ENGIE Solutions and Vossloh Cogifer to develop a new generation of computer-controlled interlockings for the French rail network. The partners have now been selected to deliver a first production model, and the first new systems will enter service at the end of 2023 in the Lyon-Vienne corridor in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

 Thales will provide an innovative, mature, high-reliability digital solution that meets SNCF Réseau’s safety, performance, cost reduction and timeline targets. The innovative system's decentralised architecture makes it possible to install controllers as close as possible to trackside equipment, and allows modularity and greater reliance on standardised equipment. It will also reduce inventory and obsolescence management costs. Thus, easier deployment will lead to a 15% reduction in the total cost of ownership, in line with SNCF Réseau’s specifications. The solution will significantly improve overall performance of the installation, in particular with regard to cybersecurity, maintenance and operation.

 For SNCF Réseau, as well as meeting the need for a new system solution, the ARGOS project offers a new deployment process that will ensure digital continuity and automate a number of operations. With the support of its civil engineering consultant SETEC, the Thales-led group has played a thought leadership role in this project and expects to drive down deployment times by 30%.

 

“We are proud that the first solution chosen by SNCF Réseau for its high-performance network development is the one proposed by the Thales-led group based on a new generation of computer-controlled interlockings that makes even greater use of digital technologies. Thales began delivering computerised signalling systems 20 years ago, and since then we have built a solid basis of mutual trust with SNCF Réseau as we support the digital transformation of the SNCF network.” Yves Joannic, Vice-President Main Line Signalling, Thales

ENGIE Solutions is delighted to have the opportunity to support SNCF Réseau on this pioneering project as part of a solid partnership with a wealth of experience. ENGIE solutions will contribute its proven rail signalling expertise, drawing on its own experience in managing transport projects around the world. ENGIE Solutions is happy to support the deployment of the rail infrastructure of tomorrow and play its part in making public transport more attractive, improving the passenger experience and enhancing the attractiveness of French cities and regions.“ Wilfrid Petrie, Executive Vice President, ENGIE Solutions

"We thank SNCF for its confidence in Vossloh and for giving us this opportunity to support the modernisation of the national rail network by deploying new-generation computer-controlled interlocking systems. Their decentralised architecture and innovative technology, combined with our experience in engineering studies, will speed deployment, bring down total cost of ownership and offer better resilience to external threats.” Marc-Antoine de Dietrich, Group CEO, Vossloh Cogifer S.A.

The decision to launch the development phase of this first-time SNCF Réseau’s multi-awardee partnership is a real success for all the teams involved. Moreover, for SNCF Réseau, the ARGOS innovation partnership is part of a long-term commitment. At the end of the 30-month development period, the industry partners will work with the infrastructure manager under a 15-year deployment contract with a view to building a sustainable ecosystem of industrial excellence over the long term.

The Thales-ENGIE Solutions-Vossloh group

  • As group leader, Thales is in charge of project management, system development and delivery.
  • ENGIE Solutions is responsible for studies, projects, technical inspections and compliance checks.
  • Vossloh Cogifer is in charge of calibration and functional testing.
  • The system solution proposed by Thales has won plaudits for its particularly modular and innovative design. This system solution, combined with the process optimisations proposed with ENGIE Solutions and Vossloh Cogifer, will deliver significant savings over its life cycle.